As seen in the October 27, 2018 issue of the Woonsocket Call


Jeanne Michon was surprised recently when Woonsocket Rotary Club President Rena Dimuccio showed up at her New Beginnings Soup Kitchen operation downstairs at the All Saints Parish at 323 Rathbun St.


Michon does get a lot of help from volunteers to put on her non-profit’s four-days-a-week noontime meal program, but Dimuccio wasn’t there for that.


The Rotary Club member had stopped in to let Michon know she was to be honored by the local Rotary chapter as this year’s Vocational Service Award honoree.


Dimuccio started out explaining how her organization each year selects a deserving member of the community, or an organization that goes above and beyond its stated contribution to the community and that Michon, a resident of Cumberland and formerly from Woonsocket, was receiving that honor this year.


“I said what?” Michon said while relating her disbelief over the tribute for which she is very thankful. Michon said she was so surprised by the tribute that she broke out in tears right there in the soup kitchen.


“It boosts your self-esteem and says that I am really doing what I should be doing,” Michon said. “I should be cooking and I should be feeding people,” Michon, the kitchen’s executive chef, explained.


Running a free meal program with revenue limited to donations is not an easy proposition. Michon had been involved in the Because He Lives Soup Kitchen, run by Pat Dempster for 31 years. When that operation closed she took on reviving it through the New Beginnings kitchen a year ago.


The program only has three paid employees and Michon, as the director, did not take pay check for most of the first year. Her reward, however, has been knowing that the kitchen has stabilized and has grown from its initial patron base of 65 to 130 people today. She is now receiving some food contributions from the R.I. Food Bank and has applications in for grant assistance from the state and the federal government.


The Vocational Service Award is another sign for her to keep it all going, Michon explained. “When someone is having a tough time, I have to sit down with them and say ‘we got through today and tomorrow is a chance for a new beginning,’” she said. That bit of counseling is where she also drew the kitchen’ s name and she believes it is good reminder for everyone who visits. “Someone will come and be having a bad day I will tell them ‘OK, tomorrow come in and we will start over,’” she said. It works, Michon said. Dimuccio said it was Michon’s drive to reopen the soup kitchen at All Saints that drew the Rotary Club’s attention.


Denise Bourget – a member of the Vocational Service Award committee with Emily Laramee, Lenette Forry, Nicole Brien and herself – recommended Michon as result of seeing her working at the kitchen, Dimuccio said. “She is an extremely generous and down to earth person, and she has a heart of gold,” Dimuccio said. Although helped by her staff and volunteers, Michon still has to handle all the planning at the kitchen, ordering of food, the cooking, and even taking on counseling for its clients, the Rotary Club president explained. “She is the heart of the whole place,” Dimuccio said.


As the Rotary Club presented Michon with her crystal award and a contribution of $500 to the kitchen during its regular meeting at River Falls Restaurant Thursday evening, Denise Bourget said she believes Michon was an excellent choice for the tribute. “I know because I observed her while I was volunteering at the All Saints Parish’s food pantry program, Bourget said.


The award honors a person for going beyond what they would be required to do in their selected vocation and who make a noteworthy contribution to their community. Michon does that in her daily work at New Beginnings and declined to take paycheck for her efforts while ensuring its viability, according to Bourget. “She is just a very selfless person,” Bourget said. Not only does Michon cook for the kitchen’s patrons, she has also obtained training in special assistance roles so that she can better serve the people coming through the kitchen’s doors.


“She takes care of their clothing needs, she also supports them when they need social services and she feeds them,” Bourget said. Michon’s work is paying off and the program expanding to help even more people each day, she added. “It feeds the soul as well as the body, and she gets them the support that they need,” Bourget said of New Beginning and its founder.